Iranian Greco-Roman wrestling champion Mohammad Ali Geraei has praised Adolf Hitler as an inspirational leader.
On Sunday, Iranian-Norwegian journalist Mina Bai tweeted: “Iran’s world champion in Greco-Roman wrestling, Mohammad Geraei, in an interview with a sports outlet in Iran has named Zlatan, Mohammad Ali and Hitler as his inspirations! [The] Iranian government has made Jew hate so normal that there is no limit to how far one can go!”
The London-based Iran International news organization first reported on Geraei’s pro-Hitler comment and asked, “But the question is, what is the education system like in Iran, when Adolf Hitler, one of the biggest criminals in history and the initiator of World War II, becomes a legend of a national hero?”
The Twitter feed for Iran International’s sports section showed a picture of Geraei next to Adolf Hitler.
محمدعلی گرایی، قهرمان کشتی فرنگی جهان روز گذشته در گفتوگو با روزنامه خبر ورزشی، از علاقهاش به زلاتان، محمد علی، اسطوره بوکس و باشگاه استقلال گفت و در بخشی از صحبتهایش «هیتلر» را به عنوان اسطوره خود در بین تمام اشخاص دنیا، به عنوان کسی که افکار بزرگی در سر داشته معرفی کرد! pic.twitter.com/6MrjDIp0t8— ایران اینترنشنال ورزشی (@iranintlsport) August 28, 2022
Sardar Pashaei, a former head of Iran’s Greco-Roman wrestling team, who is now an American citizen, told The Jerusalem Post: “As someone who has coached Iran’s national team for many years and attended the national team’s camps, I must say that it is very sad for me when I see how our athletes have become puppets of the government and have to learn the lesson of hatred instead of friendship.”
Israel’s Persian-language Twitter account tweeted: “The problem is the Ayatollahs’ antisemitic government that presents the biggest criminal of the history as a hero. Like Hitler, the Ayatollahs sacrifice the Iranian people for their goals.”
مشکل از حکومت یهودیستیز آیتاللهها است که بزرگترین جنایتکار تاریخ را به عنوان اسطوره معرفی میکنند. آیتاللهها هم مانند هیتلر، مردم ایران را قربانی اهداف خود میکنند. https://t.co/E9c7NU2E1s— اسرائیل به فارسی (@IsraelPersian) August 28, 2022
Pashaei, who oversees the United for Navid campaign, which aims to remember the murdered Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari, added, “Ali Geraei’s words are like rubbing salt on the wounds of millions of people whose families were victims of hatred. Of course, it is not surprising to me if Iranian athletes praise Qassem Soleimani or other criminals like Hitler, because they are systematically brainwashed in the camps of the national sports team. In those camps, young athletes undergo religious training and are forced to participate in government ceremonies.”
"As someone who has coached Iran's national team for many years and attended the national team's camps, I must say that it is very sad for me when I see how our athletes have become puppets of the government and have to learn the lesson of hatred instead of friendship. "Sardar Pashaei, former head of Irans Greco-Roman wrestling team
According to Pashaei, who oversees the United for Navid campaign, which commemorates murdered Iranian wrestler Navid Afkari, “Ali Geraei’s words are like rubbing salt on the wounds of millions of people whose families were victims of hatred. Of course, it is not surprising to me if Iranian athletes praise Qasem Soleimani or other criminals like Hitler, because they are systematically brainwashed in the camps of the national sports team. In those camps, young athletes undergo religious training and are forced to participate in government ceremonies.”
“We reported this issue to international sports organizations,” he said. “We previously warned the security organizations of countries, including the United States, about the presence of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps [IRGC] officials as well as athletes who are staunch supporters of the Iranian regime, and for this reason, we prevented their presence in the United States in several cases.
“The International Olympic Committee should end appeasement with Iran and ban the presence of officials and athletes who are part of the Iranian government’s repression and hatred apparatus. We will soon send a letter to the World Wrestling Federation and demand the suspension of Ali Geraei for his antisemitic comments.”
Geraei was born in Shiraz in 1994. His name is also written as Mohammadali Abdolhamid Geraei.
The star wrestler won a bronze medal at the 2021 World Championship and a gold medal at the 2018 Asian Games in Greco-Roman wrestling. Greco-Roman wrestling is restricted to upper body grappling and does not permit leg attacks.
Geraei’s praise of Hitler is not the first scandal to rock the world of Iranian wrestling. The US banned the head of Iran’s national wrestling federation, Alireza Dabir, who called for “Death to America” with violence, from entering America for a slated dual meet between the US and Iranian national wrestling teams on February 12 in Arlington, Texas, the Post reported in February.
Dabir is also a fan of Soleimani, former commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force, who was killed by the US in 2020.